Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Final Lesson

One kiss means marriage...You don’t mind if I have a mistress, do you?
(part of a series, beginning with 'Lessons in French Courtship')

Some days, I’m more of a sucker than others. If I’m in a somewhat normal setting (a café, a party, a dinner), I’ll buy into the French charm. Of course, the normal rules still apply. The suitor must be within two years of my own age. He should have intelligent things to say, have at least one interest other than soccer, and know how to spell. He must not use the words charming, caress, or special moment.

These rules are not foolproof. After giving out my number, I’ve been on lots of bad dates. I’ve learned, though, to be very careful on these dates. For in France, one kiss seals the deal. You become Instant Girlfriend. So I’d better be sure.

One of many lapses in my otherwise good judgment was Clément, a wine connoisseur from Lyon. I’d met him at a bar with my friend Sabine, where the two of us had been sitting at a table for four. Claude and Clément asked to join us. We were happy for the company and enjoyed the opportunity to practice our French. They bought us drinks and took us to what must have been the most unpopular dance club in Paris. Soon it became clear that I was with Clément and Sabine was with Claude. At the end of the night, we all programmed each other’s numbers into our cell phones and caught the first metro home.

Back then, in my early days here, I made the mistake of equating French-speaking with intelligent. It takes awhile longer for someone’s true colors to show when he’s not speaking your native tongue.

Though I’d spoken with Clément on the phone many times during the interim, I didn’t realize until we were tête-à-tête again that—there’s no way to put this nicely—he was dumb. And he knew it.

For our first date, I’d chosen a little café not too far from where I used to live. He brought me a nice bottle of wine and spent most of the evening describing the likeness of the wine’s body to my own. I was not impressed. I tried to steer the conversation in other directions, but when exploring any of these other directions, he’d preface his sentence with, “Well, I may not be the smartest guy in the world, but…”. I couldn’t have said it better myself. I had to end the date, and soon.

But he wouldn’t leave. We stood on the corner next to the cabstand, him begging me to get in the cab with him, me begging him to get in the cab without me. He tried, “What if I just threw you in the cab?” Noting that this made me remarkably uncomfortable, he concluded, “Well, I’m not getting in the cab without a kiss. Tonight was wonderful, and I’m not leaving without a souvenir.”

I had no choice. I lived in the building next door, so couldn’t feasibly walk away. He would surely follow me. So I quickly moved in for a two-millisecond, tight-lipped kiss. He grinned like a buffoon and magically backed into the rear seat of the cab.

Over the next week, I ignored countless phone and text messages. When I finally called him back from a payphone in the metro, I had to spend forty-five minutes detailing all the reasons why I didn’t want to see him again. Angry and confused, he finally shouted before hanging up on me, “Then why did you kiss me? It’s over! I’m breaking up with you!”

I stood a moment with the silent phone. He was breaking up with me? We’d only been on one extremely unsuccessful date.

You might think that this provides just one example, that Clément was simply ridiculous. But my host sister explained to me that this was the norm. That first kiss was the official seal of the relationship. She suggested that I might owe Clément an apology.

Matt recently experienced this same phenomenon. After two dates with Caroline, he kissed her before she boarded a metro home. A week later, he found himself at a dinner with ten of her closest friends. She held his hand on the table top, presented him as her boyfriend, and proudly stated that they’d been dating for weeks.

Poor Caroline. She didn’t realize that this was the kiss of death for Matt. He wasn’t ready to commit, and he didn’t know he had. After a week of ignoring phone and text messages including I just read a scary book. Call me!, he received the final, furious word from Caroline: If they’re all like you—winding a girl up and then throwing her away like a dirty sock—it’s no wonder that people hate Americans. Matt felt guilty, but we toasted our glasses to dirty socks and misinterpreted kisses. Here’s to cross-cultural dating.

(Back to Intro)
(Back to Lesson One)
(Back to Lesson Two)
(Back to Lesson Three)
(Back to Lesson Four)


At 9:39 PM, Blogger noricum said...

Wow... it sure is a different world over there!

At 10:34 PM, Anonymous matt, the roommate said...

let's not forget that x-boyfriend was there too, with his new girlfriend. anyone wonder why i was invited?
needless to say, this was the worst dinner of all time, right after the one where emily decided to talk about jamie lee curtis being a hermaphrodite, with her grandmother at the table.

At 10:49 PM, Blogger Emily said...

Okay, so I may have said that Jamie Lee Curtis was a hermaphrodite--and yes, it was at dinner with my family--but my grandmother was NOT there.

As it turns out, I might have been wrong, but if you do a search on Google for "jamie lee curtis hermaphrodite", you'll apparently see some interesting pictures. It wasn't me who discovered this, but my mother.

Haha, sorry Mom.

But she sat in front of the computer repeating "Oh my GOD!" and laughing, and then called my Dad over to see. Lucky for me, she blocked the images from her children, so I can only guess what she was looking at.

At 1:55 AM, Blogger The Michael said...

I only just glossed over it, so I'm going to read it in more depth later, but it does sort of remind me of the cultural shock I encountered in Italy during my stint in the Navy. Our submarine tender was based on this rock of an island off the coast of Italy, and the closest thing to a town was on the next island, which we reached by ferry. For all it's pitiful size, it DID have a discotech, or sorts, and it was there I was introduced to the concept of "dont worry about partners, just dance". Girls danced with Girls, Guys danced with themselves, there didn't seem to be any ryhme or reason to it. It became apparent to me that asking a girl to dance was not exactly part of the mating ritual in these parts. So I just sat there and watched. There were not to many places I would find myself hanging out in either there or Naples were I would encounter ordinary women other than hookers or those looking for a way into America, so I never did experience much of the actual culture of Italian dating. To this day I wonder if they are still dancing with themselves to ten year old American pop..........

At 4:42 AM, Blogger jkirlin said...

This was a GREAT series. For some reason though, I suspect this won't be the FINAL lesson. Thanks for these posts Emily. I like the insights your friends toss in, too. I think most guys would have to side with Matt after seeing HIS version of things. Love the photos, too. Ok, enough gushing. A fine blog.

At 12:09 PM, Blogger Sam said...

you are a very funny young lady. i'll be back :)

At 5:11 AM, Anonymous jesse said...

good stuff! amazing how diff my experience was being a boy. I almost feel like I'm missing out, if only for the unintentional comedy. that canal photo at the beginning is hot, too.

At 10:03 PM, Blogger Emily said...

Finally! Today, someone stumbled onto my blog after typing in "Jamie Lee Curtis" and "hermaphrodite" into Google. Haha... thanks, Matt.

At 3:29 AM, Anonymous paul said...

an excellent series....and i thought getting through high school was hard enough.
i always had a sneaking suspicion that warner brothers was trying to educate us on differing social constructs...
perhaps if i find myself in france later this year and i am stopped by a merchant or a peddler of goods, i will simply retort - i find you charming. then i can still be on time....

At 1:30 PM, Blogger sabine said...

I seem to remember that Clément sent you a text message almost immediately -the next night, if not that very morning as we got home from that trashy club- asking when the two of you were going to make love. Il était vraiment classe, lui...
Raise your hand if you want to rehash more memories from that year!

At 5:43 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a wonderful story and educating for this all-American girl, thank you for your "French courtship series.". I just recently met a French man who has been living in USA for almost 20 years. nearly half his life. I only know what I have heard in America about European men, and your series has now provided me with some tidbits of info I'm certain will help me get on with my new French gentleman. I am so excited I've never dated such a charming, witty, smart, succesful, and SEXY man! European men definitely have more appeal than our red-blooded America men.

FlowerChick, San Diego, CA USA


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